Kit preview of Airfix's 1/144 Orion Shuttle model.

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Airfix Orion Spacecraft Preview

By John Lester - images & text © 2000

Scale: 1/144 - about 14" long
Parts: 17 injection molded styrene - includes stand
Instructions: Fold out, with paint guide.
Decals: 2 versions, one bogus
Molding Quality: 7 - not bad for an almost 30 yr old mold.
Detail: 5 - raised panel lines are just ok.
Accuracy: 5 - it looks more like an Orion than a Starfury
MSRP: $22 USD, available from many hobby shops.
Overall Rating: 4 - you'd be better off with the PTM version, especially as the price difference is minimal.


Let me tell you, boys and girls, about the dimly-remembered "good old days" - back when men were men, women were glad of it, and major plastic model manufacturers were releasing kits based on popular sci-fi movie vehicles.


^ Wing pieces. For a look at the fuselage halves, click here.


^ Ugh! What were they thinking? Even Glencoe came up with a better fake airline logo ....

2001: A Space Odyssey saw both Aurora and Airfix put out kits of the Orion III shuttle. Aurora's is long gone, and now commands top dollar from collectors. Airfix has released theirs three times, including now (early 2000). While Aurora's is the better kit, in terms of accuracy anyway, the Airfix rendition is still useable .... if you aren't bugged by accuracy nits.

What You Get

The kit consists of 17 plastic pieces: three clear, two black (stand) and the rest white. For a kit that's roughly 30 years old, the molding is surprisingly good. There's almost no flash, and (at least on my example) few prominent sinkholes or other defects.

Detail, however, is only so-so. I can live with the raised panel lines - except the ones that attempt to recreate the ribbed effect of the area on the upper fuselage, aft of the wing. Most of the other detail is blocky and appears off. The windows are all wrong, in number, shape and size. The forward intake (or retro truster area, if you prefer) should not be squared off. The underside detail, such as it is, looks far too sparse. The clear pieces allow one to see into the interior - problematic, since no interior is provided. This, by the way, is standard for airliner kits in this scale - so like airliner kits, I'll just paint over the windows.

The instruction sheet is adequate for such a simple kit: pictoral diagrams in five easy steps. It includes painting/marking diagrams - which are not tremendously helpful if you don't know that Humbrol 33 is flat black and 22 is gloss white. I also question whether the "Pan Am" markings really should go on the underside of the wings.

Waterslide decals for two versions are provided: the original Pan Am markings, and the bogus ones from the second release. They look good enough on the sheet, though the large "bogus" circle is off register on my example. Previous experience with Airfix decals indicates the use of solvents to get them to lay down nicely.

Assembly & Finish

Assembly of this beast, including cleaning up the parts, took me all of 20 minutes. The parts are meant to snap together, which helps (though you'll still want to use glue). Parts fit is what you'd expect for a 30 year old kit of any genre - not terribly good. The area where the engine insert "fits" will need plenty of filler. There is a significant step between the left and right fuselage halves, all the way around. Fixing it will probably involve losing a few of the panel lines - not that they all meet up across the fuselage halves.


Frankly, at $22 USD retail, this kit is way overpriced - especially considering the molds are almost certainly paid off. There are better alternatives out there, including Part Time Model's Orion III. In it's defense, the Airfix kit is probably easier to prepare for a metallic finish, and it does go together almost painlessly. However, the only reason I can see for buying the Airfix kit, over the PTM, is if you are allergic to resin.

I kinda wish I'd taken my own advice .....

Many thanks to my wallet for providing the review sample. Manufacturers and retailers, interested in getting your wares reviewed and publicized? Contact us!

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Posted on 9 May 2000. Last updated on 11 March 2003